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How will speed limit changes affect you?

Alex Doty • Dec 16, 2016 at 8:00 AM

Change could be on the horizon for motorists across the state, as the Michigan Legislature earlier this week narrowly backed a 75 mph speed limit on 600 miles of freeway in the state and a 65 mph limit on 900 miles of other roads.

Pending a signature by Gov. Rick Snyder, within a year the limits would rise from 70 mph to 75 and from 55 mph to 65, if a safety study shows it is OK and the new limit is what no more than 15 percent of drivers already are exceeding.

The limits could rise on about 15 percent of Michigan's nearly 9,700 miles of I-, U.S.- and M-numbered highways.

“If the governor does sign the bills, MDOT will work quickly with (Michigan State Police) partners to study and make recommendations on the rural two-lane and rural freeway trunklines eligible for higher speeds,” said Michigan Department of Transportation Grand Region spokesman John Richard.

According to Richard, MDOT hasn’t taken a stance on the bills. He said department officials will continue to watch the progress of the legislation.

“While we cannot say now with certainty what specific routes will be recommended, in terms of freeways, you can make educated guesses based on geography — I-75 north of U.S. 10 to the Soo; U.S. 131 from northern Kent County to north of Manton, where it changes from freeway to two lanes; and U.S. 127 from Clare north to where it merges with I-75,” Richard said.

Sgt. Steve Austin of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department said the county might not see much of an impact from the pending changes.

“I really don't think any of our roads will be affected by that legislation, other than M-231,” Austin said. “I believe the speed study conducted will show in favor of raising the speed to 65 mph, which most vehicles are traveling 55-65 now, but I suspect the 85th percentile will show in favor of raising to 65 mph.”

Added Austin: “I support, however, they can keep traffic crashes down and keep traffic moving safely and efficiently through Ottawa County.”

State Rep. Brad Jacobsen, R-Oxford, said it makes sense to base speed limits on the 85th percentile standard — in which 85 percent of motorists are currently driving 65 or 75 mph anyway on the affected roads.

"They encourage more drivers to travel at about the same speed, which has been shown to reduce the likelihood of crashes," Jacobsen said. "Rational speed limits make more sense to the vast majority of drivers because they are neither unrealistically low nor high, thus they are largely self-enforcing."

Seventeen states authorize 75 mph or higher speed limits, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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